Newspapers are supposed to be a great tool for education simply because it is current. School textbooks are stuck at the time that they were printed. Materials in them become outdated very fast. Old issues are boring. For example, Students might be stuck reading about the 2004 Acheh tsunami instead of the 2011 Fukushima tsunami. But then again, our Malaysian textbooks were printed before the Acheh tsunami and there hasn't been any revision since then. If I am not mistaken, the chapter on environment is still on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.... I can't remember for sure cos I hardly use the textbooks these days.
Newspapers also alllow students to keep up with the latest social trends, political changes and also what's new. The mind is constantly renewed.... A century ago, books were the main source of knowledge. These days knowledge gets repackaged again and again so much that what seems amazing today will be normal. Take the iPad for example... and in a couple of years, they're probably going to replace the paper textbooks that we are so familiar with now. Anyway, with textbooks going digital, keeping them current will not be an issue, going by how apps get updated all the time these days.
But I like NIE because it's supposed to also teach critical thinking... Let's take a look one problem which should concern us - the drop in the number of students taking math and science. Apparently there has been a huge drop. A 29% decline is worrying. And that also means that we have fallen short, very short of the 60:40 ratio of students pursuing Science objective set in the 90s. Anyway, this article indicates that the authorities are worried about this trend and rightly so too cos our future is tied to this. The whole article can be read here.
Anyway, this would provide an interesting discussion too for our young minds. The MOE had almost 15 years (I think) to work on the 60:40 ratio. Yet it failed. The slide would not have been so sudden. It would have been sliding for the last few years, at the very least. Yet the slide was not checked. What are we paying all those technocrats for at the Ministry? What were the Ministers of Education doing? Were they merely occupying the chairs first while waiting for their time to come so that they can move up to be the Deputy PM and then the PM? If that is the case, then we'll never have politicians with our education best interests at heart. And perhaps too, we should start looking at countries like Finland who set education apart from politics.... Finland, in the recent years has been noticed because their education system is now considered one of the most successful in the world. And one of the things they did was to reduce the role of politicians and give more autonomy to professionals to run the system. Minus the meddling hands of the politicians, Finland has found herself surging to the top of th PISA list. In discussion this in class - it would be interesting to take note of issues like accountability, efficiency, ability, good governance.... LOL! Another article here...
And so, like many of the instant solutions which do not solve the real problem, we see the Minister coming out statements that show his Ministry to be on top of things. But if you look at them carefully, they are merely attempts to make himself look as if he is solving a problem.... a problem which actually is the doing (or undoing) of him and his predecessors. We should be giving them all F(s) for failing our children! Yet we vote them into office election after election. And here too... one can find plenty of fodder for a good discussion. 8)
We should do some real critical evaluation and ask ourselves why we are in this state now.... taking stock of issues like funding, quality of teachers, learning environment, teacher workload, quality of school heads and also implementors at the state and district levels. We should also start asking ourselves whether our racial policy also contributes to the state we're in. I am sure if we look long and hard, we will find many of those areas wanting.
Unfortunately, teaching creative and critical thinking is like scaling a mountain, in many schools today because the standard of English is really bad. Very little discussion can take place because students can't speak. You see, most are so used to being taught English in BM in primary school. I am sure my SRJK(C) students had their English lessons in Mandarin. Then when they come up to secondary school, many of the English teachers themselves don't speak good English too... I cringe very often, listening to English teachers talk. And I have also come across many English teachers who can't even form proper questions or write correct sentences. If today, the MOE were to just give out an O-Level English test to the English teachers, the results would be quite interesting....
Perhaps we could use the BM papers. But then again, reporting quality in BM papers is even worse.
As the Minister of Educatian said, English was one of the reasons why the interest for Math and Science is on the decline... and why too 'he' changed the medium of instruction. Will the grades improve? I'm sure. This is after all the computer age... anything is possible. Will students be more interested to take up Math and Science? That I'm not sure.